I never quoted the professor's exegesis in the Pauline epistle. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š In fact, I'm not interested in his SUBJECTIVE views at all. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š What is relevant is his OBJECTIVE survey of Greek and Roman culture and religion.
His survey of Greek and Roman culture and religions is certainly interesting, but by no means definitive proof that cultural biases against women did not influence their religious life. In fact, his survey did not definitively prove any such astoundingly broad assertion (and why should it, since that was not the purpose of his article?).
Anyway, as I have thought about it, I think the whole "pagan priesthood" line of research is largely a red herring. Yes, women did hold significant priestly roles in various cultic rites (but not, as GiC has correctly pointed out, at the highest levels). But WHY did they hold such offices? What was the "theological" meaning of the office? In other words, was this "priesthood" really analogous to what we, as Christians, consider priesthood? Of course, most female priests performed religious rites, but what kind of authority of administration or teaching did they have over the "body of pagans"? ... if we can even call it that (which we can't!)!
That's the problem: The only "priestly" positions that are really even remotely comparable to the duties of the Christian priest are the state-sponsored male priests, e.g. flamines
(liturgist, teacher, public authority with power to influence the community's understanding of theology and religious practice, etc.). Sure, the Vestal Virgins were important, everyone wanted a good auger and, later, mystery cults loved to initiate women, but all of these positions are either common-place (not leadership) or are specialized (almost like a deaconess or, perhaps, a prophetic elder).
Did women hold the same number of offices, with the same degree of authority, as men? If not, why? If so, were these offices even analogous to Christian offices?
Assuming we have proven that pagan women did hold substantial and equal positions of authority that were analogous to Christian offices, we then have to ask: Would this fact encourage or discourage the early Church to adopt female priesthood? If female priesthood was, in fact, so widespread and women so liberated in matters religious, then (a) what was so revolutionary about Christianity's supposedly unprecedented view of women, and (b) would this not indicate that, perhaps, the Christian Church's choice to spurn female priests was motivated by anti-pagan sentiment instead of exclusively sui generis
reasons? (Cultural influence from the other side!)
I think we have to be careful about arguing that pagan religious culture was pro-women. Not only would it take much more proof than what has been provided, I fear it would lead to some nasty places.
It's prefectly valid to quote the Church Fathers as long as one does not impose his/her personal presuppositions and biases. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š However...
I find theological discussion on this matter as unnecessary. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š After all, GiC's argument is exclusively on the cultural aspect, and I must strike at the heart of his hypothesis.
I think the most effective way to strike at the heart of the matter would be to examine the actual Christian sources. Even if you have proven everything you think you have about pagan religion, you still haven't shown that the same applies to the Church. What do the Fathers say about women? If we find their words on the matter to be free from cultural influence, then the matter is truly settled.